The President's Message – 23 February 2018

This has been a difficult week for all of us. You will all be aware that our plans to move to a computer based examination failed on Monday when there were various technical problems, and the examination had to be called off. We are also aware of many issues at the examination centres.  We understand that many trainees are not only distressed and anxious, but they feel that they may be compromised in the outcome, and that they have not been treated fairly.

Our staff, Board and Fellows have had to make difficult decisions and answer a lot of criticism. The examination has been rescheduled as quickly as possible, but trainees had other plans for the weeks after the exam, which did not include re-sitting it. Some have been put to considerable inconvenience and expense. Hospitals have to reschedule leave and covering arrangements again. There are many issues we need to resolve in coming weeks.

I can only apologise again, and assure you that we let the college know as soon as possible what happened and why.  Our review panel will start on this.  I would also like to let you know that we have been very reassured by the support given to our trainees and to the College by our health departments, the AMA, other medical organisations, and the other medical colleges. We are part of a great community. I would also like to acknowledge our senior staff, our Media Unit, and all the education staff and others who have really shown their commitment to the College in the last few days. I was at the College on Tuesday, the day after the exam, and saw real teamwork in action as we tried to get the best outcome for our trainees as quickly as possible.

After all this, I would like our trainees to know that we will be thinking of them when they do the written examination on Friday, 2 March. I am sure that all that knowledge which you have accumulated over many months of study is all there, and that you will perform to your best once again.

Although our exam is uppermost in our attention, I would also like to comment on the issue which received so much attention last week.

The case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, the UK paediatric registrar who was convicted of manslaughter and deregistered for life has been extensively publicised. A useful summary is available on the ABC News website.

We understand that this has caused anxiety and concern across the world, not just about the harm done to Dr Bawa-Garba, but what it means for all of us, particularly doctors in training, and doctors who are working in conditions which are potentially unsafe for patients and staff.

Public safety is the priority of medical regulators, but most adverse events in healthcare settings are the result of system failures. Hospitals are very complex environments, and patients are vulnerable. We are all committed to the best outcome, but this needs constant monitoring of staffing levels and skill mix, safe working conditions, communication, information technology, policies, procedures, and of course good working relationships between health professionals. All of us, trainees and Fellows, must contribute and commit to safety and quality, and this includes speaking out when systems are not working. Trainees work under supervision, Fellows are responsible for providing appropriate supervision, and clear and effective communication between healthcare teams is essential for safe, quality patient care.

There are many legal complexities in this case, and it is not appropriate to comment on the detail. A review has been ordered by the UK Secretary for Health. 

Dr Catherine Yelland
President, RACP

Support ​options

For any Trainee or Fellow who feels they need support a list of services is available on the RACP website.

We have also provided a list below with the contact details of some services that are available across Australia and New Zealand.

  • Converge is a confidential counselling service. You can call 1300 687 327 (Aust) or 0800 666 367 (NZ). Please advise them that you need to speak to someone immediately. If you call after 6pm and before 8.30am (AEDT), your call will be directed to a messaging service that will arrange for a consultant to call you back.
  • Lifeline is available 24/7 if you need to speak to someone immediately. You can call 13 11 14 in Australia or 0800 543 354 in New Zealand.
  • Beyondblue Support Service can provide support and advice 24/7. You can call 1300 22 4636 in Australia
  • The Depression helpline is available in New Zealand 24/7. You can call 0800 111 757
  • AMA Peer Support Service is available in Victoria and Tasmania. You can call 1300 853 338 for anonymous and confidential peer support for doctors by doctors, 8am to 11pm every day of the year.
  • Doctors Health SA is available in South Australia 24/7. You can call +61 08 8232 1250
  • Black Dog Institute has information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of depression and bipolar disorder.
  • MensLine Australia is a professional phone and online support and information service for Australian men. You can call 1300 78 9978.
  • Mindhealthconnect is an innovative website dedicated to providing access to trusted, relevant mental healthcare services, online programs and resources.

You may also seek help by speaking with your peers or your GP.

Election cycle underway

The RACP election cycle is underway. The call for nominations for various elected positions or, if applicable, expressions of interest for appointment, to Division, Faculty, Chapter, New Zealand and Australian Regional Councils or Committees is now open.

Learn more

The call for nominations for College positions – results announced

 The recent call for nominations for the next RACP President-Elect, Directors on the College Board, and various positions on Division and Faculty Councils and the New Zealand and Chapter Committees closed on Friday, 2 February 2018.

Find out more

Input encouraged

An updated draft RACP Policy Document on E-cigarettes is now open for review and feedback. 

​It is based on a review of existing evidence, current use, potential risks and benefits, existing regulatory frameworks and positions of other key health organisations.

Find out more

Faster, interactive Congress 

At RACP Congress 2018 speakers will challenge delegates to ask themselves how prepared they, and the healthcare system, are for issues that will change and influence healthcare systems of the future.

RACP Congress 2018 will be faster, more interactive, use TED style talks, and include workshops and video presentations on contentious issues that should be tackled rather than avoided. They include:

  • disruptive conversations and disruptive technologies
  • climate change
  • mental health
  • patient centred ​and integrated care.

Walk away from Congress knowing a lot more than you did when you arrived, leave being energised, entertained and stimulated to make a change and make a difference. 

Register now at www.racpcongress.com.au

Cannabis therapy ​examined

A group of our Fellows discuss cannabis therapy in the latest Pomegranate Health podcast.

Listen online

New advice released

The Australian Rheumatology Association and the College have released new recommendations as part of the Evolve initiative. They help avoid unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures carried out in Rheumatology clinical practice.

Read more

International Medical Symposium (IMS) on Friday, 9 March

Delegates attending the 2018 IMS at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney will benefit from the perspective of other specialists on issues common to all areas of medicine. 

Find out more

Election advocacy

The College has released a Tasmanian Election Statement prior to the election on Saturday, 3 March.

It calls on the incoming government to focus on key priorities and makes specific policy recommendations.

Download the statement

Read the latest journals

Internal Medicine Journal – February 2018 edition

The January issue of the Internal Medicine Journal is now available. 

Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health – ​​February 2018 edition

Access the latest edition of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health on the Wiley Online Library.  

Close overlay